There's not a lot to say about Hot Shots Golf 3 that Mike didn't already cover, and I agree with almost everything he said. As stated, the game is very open and accessible to the average person (golf nut or not), and its an absolute breeze to play. You should have no fear of buying this one, since it's a total winner. I did have a few things to add, though.

Having spent a lot of time with the original PlayStation version, a change in Hot Shots Golf 3 that I appreciated was that that Clap Hanz toned down the insane difficulty level of opponents during one-on-one matches. They're still challenging in Hot Shots Golf 3, but nowhere near the superhumanly unrealistic level they were at in Hot Shots Golf. After watching the computer score multiple holes-in-one, fifty-foot putts and hundred-yard chip-ins without breaking a sweat, I lost a lot of respect for the first game. It still takes hard work to come out on top now, but I don't feel like I'm being cheated anymore. This is a big plus.

Now that the issue of computer advantage has been (mostly) dealt with, the game is almost flawless. There are still two areas that need tweaking, but they're pretty minor. Still, what good is being a critic if I can't nitpick?

Number one, you can't turn off the ultra-annoying voice samples from the crowd or caddies. The repetitive (and very limited) sound bites get old really fast, and the caddies don't do a thing for your game except provide noise pollution. You'll swiftly get sick of their heckling when you miss a shot, and hearing them spurt lame praise for doing well is just as bad. If I have to hear my caddy yell "Cream Cheeeese!" one more time, somebody's going to get hurt. There's just too much yammering going on, when all I want is a little quiet on the course.

Number two, the character designs ABSOLUTELY SUCK. There're two or three that aren't too bad, but most of them are so unhip and cheesy they literally distract me from the game. I don't know what defective personality thought these characters had charm or appeal, but they completely turn me off. I almost didn't buy the game based on my level of repulsion to this collection of nerds, weirdos and sideshow escapees. In Hot Shots Golf, the players had just the right mix of realism and cartooniness. In Hot Shots Golf 3, most of them look horrible, with the game's final playable character taking the cake. It makes my stomach queasy just thinking about it.

Besides those two relatively minor issues, there's nothing to complain about. The core of the game is basically unchanged from the last two installments except for the new selection of extras, but that's fine with me. I thought the game was nearly perfect to begin with. Seriously, I don't see how the gameplay can get much better. It's a great title with a superb level of polish and massive amounts of playability. It comes highly recommended, even for people who don't like the sport. I'm sure that knocking a little white ball around some grassy hills doesn't seem like a very good time to most folks compared to all the extreme sports, hoops, or football but give it a chance. You'll be hooked before you know it, just like those old Scottish guys from way back when. Kilts are optional.Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Brad Gallaway
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